What Are Impressions? Why Are They Important? Marketing 101

Have you ever seen an ad on your favourite website? Or before a video you watch online? When you see these ads, it’s called an “impression.”

Some people view impressions as a vanity metric.

I’ve even seen some people saying “How many Ferraris have your impression numbers got you?”. I agree that engagement is an important metric to focus on.

Both stats are important pieces of the puzzle.

But what are “impressions,” and why do they matter in marketing?

Let’s find out!

What Are Impressions?

So. What are impressions or an impression?

Impressions are a way to count how many times a piece of content is shown to people.

“Content” could be a blog article (like this). A social media post. Even an ad.

Picture this.

You’re back at school.

If you see a poster for a new toy in your school hallway.

Each time one of your friends sees that poster, that’s one impression. Even if they don’t stop to read the whole poster. Seeing it counts as an impression.

Impressions help companies know how many people are seeing their ads. Or, how many times someone has seen a webpage listed in Google Search?

It doesn’t matter if people click on the content or not. Showing the ad counts as an impression.

Why Are Impressions Important?

Impressions are important. Because they tell companies if their content is being seen by lots of people.

More impressions mean more chances for people to remember them. And buy a product or service later.

OK.

We’re back at school again.

Imagine you and your friends like a new game.

If the game company shows puts or more and more posters. In front of kids like you. More kids will know about the game. This helps the company sell more games.

I can hear you asking.

“If impressions are so important. Why is it a vanity metric?”

Great question.

Let’s say you run an eCommerce business.

And you are using Instagram as the main channel to promote your products.

If your posts are getting thousands of views. But, no one is liking or commenting on the posts. And the business isn’t getting any sales. Then the posts aren’t “working”. They aren’t helping the business reach its sales targets.

That’s why it’s a vanity metric in some cases.

I disagree.

These metrics are all related. They go hand in hand.

The same eCommerce store could create the most engaging, sales-driven post ever. But if no one sees it. Then it’s as pointless as getting thousands of impressions.

How Marketers Use Impressions

Marketers use impressions to measure how well their content is doing.

Let’s take a PPC ad campaign as an example.

If an ad gets a lot of impressions, it’s reaching many people. This is good news for the company!

Here are two examples:

  • A toy company shows ads for a new action figure. They get lots of impressions, meaning lots of kids see the ad.
  • A snack company shows ads for a new cookie. If the ad gets many impressions, lots of people will know about the cookie.

More impressions mean more people see and remember the ads. Which can turn them into customers.

Impressions can also help a marketer to figure out where to focus their efforts.

I’ll give you a real-world example for our very own blog.

We’ve got an article about short-tail keywords.

We noticed it was getting a lot of impressions on Google Search. But the click-through rate was shocking. Less than 1% something like 0.17%.

Terrible!

So, instead of putting a lot of effort into creating new content. We focused on looking at existing content. That had high impression numbers, but low engagement numbers.

Our effort was to update the blog title and meta descriptions to make them more “enticing”. To make more people click through.

After a few weeks. We looked at our click-through rate again for the same blog post. Almost 2% of people were now clicking through.

The number doesn’t sound a lot.

But it’s a massive jump from where it was.

That’s why impressions. For me. It isn’t a vanity metric.

Use the metric as a signpost. Directing your efforts.

Conclusion

Impressions are counting how many times a piece of content is shown to people.

They’re important because they help companies know if their content is being seen.

More impressions mean more chances for people to learn about and want the product.

Now you know what impressions are and why they matter in marketing!

Oh, before you go.

If you want to understand how impressions fit into a larger data-driven approach to marketing? Check out our comprehensive guide to data-driven marketing.

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Picture of Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes
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